The 73-year-old solo yachtsman rescued in the Atlantic by cruise liner Queen Mary 2 is enjoying his experience on board so much that he says: “I may be a little less snooty about cruise ships now.”
Retired Royal Marine Mervyn Wheatley was taking part in the Royal Western Yacht Club’s Original Singlehanded Transatlantic Race (OSTAR). His yacht, Tamarind, was one of several damaged in an “extreme” storm with 50-foot waves and winds reaching 60 knots.
Mr Wheatley, from Devon, put out a distress call after his attempts to bail out the boat proved futile. A cargo ship was sent to his rescue but it was not equipped to take him on board. Canadian coastguards then informed him Cunard‘s 2,620-passenger Queen Mary 2 was in the area and was diverting to his aid.
The liner reached him on Saturday and passengers watched as a rescue boat plucked him from his yacht and cheered when he was hoisted aboard.
Wearing a borrowed dinner jacket, he later had dinner as a guest of Captain Chris Wells. The captain said it was standard seafaring practice to go to the aid of a vessel in distress and added: “We were pleased to be able to help, and delighted that the yachtsman is safe and well.”
Two crew on a dismasted yacht taking part in the companion TWOSTAR event were rescued by an ocean-going tug, and the crew of another boat were taken aboard survey vessel Thor Magna. Two other boats were damaged; one was able to head to the Azores under engine power, the other is returning to the UK.
Mr Wheatley said: “I think I did incomparably better being rescued by the QM2, certainly as far as the aftercare is concerned. I have been treated like a prince.”
Queen Mary 2 left Southampton last Wednesday for a six-night crossing to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and is scheduled to arrive in New York on Thursday June 15.